Saturday, 26 December 2015

Vietnam/Cambodia Day 13 - Ho Chi Minh City - Phnom Penh

This day saw us depart Vietnam and fly to Cambodia.

We travelled to the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh on Cambodia Angkor Air which we were told is a subsidiary of Vietnam Airlines. We were also told the flight would be an Airbus A320 but in the event the plane was a Jet Propellor aircraft.

The plane was parked a very long way from the terminal buildings. We were bussed to it from the terminal and as we queued to board I saw my suitcase flung from a trolley into the cargo hold and moments later flung right out again.

Apparently our bags were too much for the cargo space and the last half dozen or so ended up in the cabin with the passengers. Seeing your suitcase flung about at an airport is not a comforting sight.

We were greeted by a new tour guide at Phnom Penh Airport - or should I say we located her as she seemed incapable of identifying us despite our highly visible tour company baggage identification sashes.

We were discover quickly that our tour guides in Phnom Penh would not be up to the capable standards we experienced in Vietnam.

As a consequence our less than 72 hours in the capital did not go according to schedule. More unfortunately we did not experience Phnom Penh's attractions to their best effect.

After a belatedly organised lunch at a downtown restaurant we were taken to S21. I imagine anyone who has visited Phnom Penh since 1979 will know about S21. It is the former school, which bore that name, which the Khmer Rouge turned into the Capital's biggest and notorious prison through which many thousands of Cambodians passed to be tortured ahead of their deaths in the infamous Killing Fields.

As we were to discover during our week long stay in Cambodia, the events of 1975-79 under the Khmer Rouge figure very prominently in their memory and in their tourist offerings.

S21 was liberated when the Vietnamese entered the 'ghost city' capital in 1979. The remnants of charred bodies of those whom the Khmer Rouge burnt to death in the final moments of their regime appear in photographs in the rooms where they the bodies were found. The other displays - skulls, bones, photographs, torture implements and the like - throughout the former prison are similarly harrowing.

You will understand I put my camera away for most of the prison visit.

A section of S21

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